Trial Riding Safely
Finally the weather is getting better — and that means trail riding activities will increase. There are so many things to do to get ready for this season. Trail safety and making sure that your equipment is in good condition is part of getting ready for the season. Trail safety is more than looking out for trouble while you’re riding. It involves preparation of gear, getting in riding shape, and getting our horse tuned up. It also means having a few simple items on hand to help you or your horse in case of a mishap.
Even a short ride can spell trouble if your horse stumbles and you’re thrown. I know of one woman whose horse stumbled at the walk going down a slight incline very close to home and fell clear to its knees. In the process, she was thrown forward over the horse’s shoulder. Normally it would have been a simple fall, and she would have gotten back up and ridden off, more embarrassed for losing her balance than anything else. But in this case, her head struck a rock and she was dazed for several minutes. It was a good thing she was wearing a helmet or she would have been seriously hurt.
Inspect your helmet. Make sure it fits properly, and that there’s no damage from being knocked about. If you don’t have one and are thinking of buying, one please do it now. How much should you spend on a helmet? Here’s a simple rule of thumb that I used when I was involved in motorcycle racing. It holds true for trail riding, as well. If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 helmet. If you have a $100 head, then buy an appropriate helmet for it.
The next item to inspect is your cinch or girth. You can break a lot of other equipment on the trail and find something to use to “make do” until you get back home. Not so when it come to your cinch. Take the time to inspect it for wear and rust around the buckles and replace it if there is any thing suspect about it. Worn out threads, cracks and cuts in the leather, and rusted buckles all spell trouble. Replace them. The few dollars to replace a cinch will be well worth it.
Reins are next. Make sure that whatever you use is clear of fraying, cuts, and cracks in leather. Check your buckles here, too, if you have them. I’ve changed many reins and found that the inside of the rein where it attaches to the bit is worn more than it appeared. Take your reins off the bridle — clean them and inspect the areas you can’t see. I also recommend you purchase a set of our lightweight HorseThink Emergency Reins™ in case a rein breaks on the trail. Since most people don’t carry anything to fix a broken rein, having a set of Emergency Reins™ is the fastest and easiest fix.
The best thing you can do is create a trail riding kit that you can take with you on every trail ride. This kit can be carried in a saddle bag or cantle bag. Better yet, consider a belly or fanny pack so that you still have your supplies even if you get separated from your horse. Remember that even a short trail ride could spell trouble if you or your horse are injured. Some of the items you might wish to carry include:
- Emergency first aid pouch with basic things like vet wrap, bandages, triangular bandage, gauze, anti-biotic cream, and a “blood stopper” (Dynamite™ Trace Minerals work well for this). This doesn’t have to be a large kit — simply a few things to get you by until help arrives.
- Zinc oxide cream – great for sunburn protection and relief for both you and your horse
- Easy Boot or other hoof protection.
- Water for you (save some for an emergency).
- Plastic bag (large garbage size) which can be used to capture water if more is needed, or to double as rain protection in an emergency.
- Knife (a medium size pocket knife with a locking blade).
- Matches in a waterproof container (an old film canister works well for this).
- Flashlight (with a mini-light you can get a lot of light in a compact package without much weight).
- Small amount of twine or strong fishing line (at least 50-pound test).
Food has purposefully been left out as you can easily survive for several days without it. Carry extra water — you’ll need it more than food if something happens.
The above kit can be assembled for under $75 (the Easy Boot is an extra expense), and it could easily save your life.